Well, this doesn’t feel right.

A few things happened today that made me feel like I was back in high school. Unfortunately, this is not the first time since high school that this has happened. In fact, it would be fair to say that since graduating college, I’ve sometimes felt like I’m regressing rather than blossoming into the well-adjusted, socially graceful, and professionally capable young adult the media has led me to believe I should be.

Example.

Today provided another reminder that I’m still apparently an awkward person when it comes to conversation. With friends and family it’s obviously not such a problem, but when I’m talking to strangers, I tend to switch up my verb/noun placement and sometimes change my mind about what word I want to use when I’m halfway through the original word. This is exacerbated in the workplace because pretty much all of my coworkers are a good deal more suave than I am, which intimidates me. They’re salespeople, for one thing, which means that they are extroverted and have built careers on their ability to make a conversation go their way. I, on the other hand, am a writer. I’m used to being able to evaluate, criticize, and revise my words before they reach readers’ eyes. Having to hold my own in a conversation with “grown ups” sometimes, well, freaks me out.

It didn’t help that today’s conversation was about menopause.

This morning our office had a big staff meeting, which meant almost all of the realtors were in the building. Most of them are in their fifties or older, and most of them are women. Today also happened to be ridiculously warm for late September – high 80s and humid. Our thermostat can be a pretty touchy (I swear there’s a “warm” 70 degrees and a “cool” 70 degrees), which means there were many adjustments being made to the temperature, not all of them successful. My boss fanned herself with a piece of junk mail, and one of the other women (we’ll call her Mimi) just sat there laughing.

“I’m so glad I’m past that age, lemme tell ya,” she said.

Another woman, closer to my boss’s ages: “Oh yeah, Laura, you got a lot to look forward to.”

Mimi: “Yeah, I know it seems a ways off, but hoo boy, it’s no fun.”

I was trying to be very interested in my paperwork while my mind scrambled for the requisite witty banter. Seriously, how are you supposed to respond to that? I have a mother. Kevin has a mother. Many of my friends have mothers. I have witnessed a hot flash or two. I have seen that one clip from “The Soup” where the menopausing mom uses a fridge door as a fan to cool off her naked hot-flashing self. None of this seemed particularly beneficial to the conversation.

But I had to say something, or I would be forever labeled The Shy One, and I am so done with that label. “Yep…I…have seen how that goes.”

Mimi nodded wisely. “It is no fun. Lemme tell ya.”

So now instead of the The Shy One, I’m probably The Awkward Shy One Who Doesn’t Say Much But God Bless Her She Tries.

Because of that incredibly awkward meeting, I didn’t get a morning break and didn’t even think about lunch until past 12:30. I took an extended break at a nearby park, which was for the most part really great, thanks to the weather. I found a picnic table in the shade and busted out the trusty Moleskine and wrote a bit. This was lovely, until some old fart on a bicycle wheeled past and whistled at me.

Cue Patented Laura Ice Queen Death Glare.

I don’t know what I keep expecting – maybe for the wolf-whistle to become “uncool,” or for men to realize that women are not remotely impressed by wolf-whistling, or maybe for my own self-esteem to suddenly decide that everyone else must be okay with wolf-whistling, because it’s not going away, so I oughta get with the program and stop being so uppity about it. I mean, some women must take it as a compliment, right? Otherwise every whistler would get punched and the practice would die out pretty quickly. It must be flattering for some women, just…not for me. It makes me turn into She Hulk.

So that ruined my break a little. I texted Kevin in a huff and spent the rest of my break glancing around to make sure Creepy Old Biker wasn’t biking up behind me to leer some more.

Fast forward a couple hours. My self-esteem is now thoroughly dragging, having spent the morning being awkward and the afternoon fretting over a silly whistle. I went into my boss’s office to drop off some completed files, with the intent of also asking an unrelated question. Keep in mind that I have a terrible memory. Usually, when someone approaches me with a task, I’ll whip out a notepad and paper and take notes so I don’t accidentally skip a step. Today, though, I went into my boss’s office, handed over the files, and promptly forgot what I was going to ask. I stood awkwardly, trying to remember, and my boss looked up at me.

“Need something?”

“Well…I had a question.”

“Oh no, you’re too young to forget!”

“Oh, I wish…give me a minute.”

Of course I remembered, and asked, and got my answer, but it needled at me that on top of everything else today, I was getting teased again about my age. Yes, I am twenty-three and working as a secretary. Yes, I am petite and sometimes shy and prefer staying in with a book to getting wasted and looking for a one-night stand on the weekends. But I’ve been consistently employed for the last nine months, which is more than can be said about thirteen percent of other recent college grads, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask to be taken at least a bit seriously. And that desire to be taken seriously is something I haven’t felt since I was seventeen.

So here’s a question for any older readers who happen to have stopped by, or for any readers my own age: do you ever really feel “grown-up,” or do you always feel like you’re missing out on some joke? How do you cope with it? And how do you feel about the whistling?

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14 thoughts on “Well, this doesn’t feel right.

  1. Do I ever feel more socially awkward and generally inept than someone my age should be? Sure, all the time, but after the initial embarrassment fades, it helps me refrain from taking myself seriously. From what little of grown-up life I’ve managed to experience, it seems boring, difficult, and soul-deadening. Youthful goof-ups are how life stays fun.

    • Well, for someone who’s always had trouble making fun of herself, that’s not so easy. πŸ™‚ I prefer to youthfully embarass myself outside the workplace – aka while watching Speed Racer.

  2. It took me a long time to be able to communicate with the other realtors here without feeling like I was twelve. I still get the ‘young’ comments, but I’ve found that the way to be taken seriously isn’t through conversation, it’s through action. After awhile here I FINALLY know what I’m talking about, and people in the office take me seriously because they can see the results of my work all over the place.

    I still say, “Oh, totally,” instead of ‘yes’ to questions though.

    • Yeah, it doesn’t help that I’m still pretty new at this job. Hopefully in another month or so that roadblock will be gone. In the meantime, yeah, my standard answer to a request is a chipper and super-lame “Can do!” Hurr.

  3. Since I’m younger than you, I don’t think I can comment on feeling “grown up.” I often don’t when I’m talking to people I’m not familiar with, especially in a journalistic capacity and I’m weird and immature with my friends and boyfriend. Even with friends I’m not quite as close to I come off as a bit awkward and sarcastic and I am really bad at life sometimes. When I interview people, I tend to feel a little weird because I feel like I say things “okay, well, yeah, that’s really cool and uhhhhh…” and I just feel lame. I feel like I’m capable of being decently witty with people I’m comfortable with, but I either come off super awkward or as a Very Serious Brainy Girl/Annoying Know-It-All with people I don’t know.

    So feel better! You’re not alone!

    • Aw, that’s actually really nice to hear. I wrote for the school paper for about 2 years and I haaaaaated interviewing. It made me feel super awkward, especially because I was usually just trying to wring a quote out of some baseball player. I figured since you are pretty much already a journalist, you would be Interviewer Extraordinaire, but it makes me feel better to hear that you’re still a human being too. πŸ™‚

      (Not that I doubt your interviewing skills in the slightest, because from what I’ve heard you’re writing a ton and getting lots of cool contacts!)

  4. I am still trying to figure out what it means to be a grown up AND I am having hot flashes. Enjoy being/feeling young – ignore the comments – we are all just jealous….. and sweaty.

  5. I definitely feel like you a lot. Around strangers I am awful. I make jokes that aren’t funny, say things that don’t make sense, and just like you sometimes I try to switch what I’m saying halfway through my word. It sounds awful to say, but this is why I almost always have a drink when I’m meeting new people. Helps me calm my shit down.

  6. Oh and about the whistling – I don’t know how I feel, I guess. I’m not offended by it but I’m not particularly flattered either. It mostly just embarrasses me because I don’t know how to respond to it.

  7. I’m ok with the whistling as long as that’s all. I mean I would never respond positively to it and I will certainly train my sons NEVER to objectify a woman like that but I usually just chalk it up to another ass hole in the world. As for the grown up thing, I usually feel the opposite. I act like about 30 until I get to know people then I feel I can relax more. Most of the people I’ve worked with since graduating are surprised to find I’m only 23. I don’t necessarily think I come across mature and wise. I’m just so conscious of the need to be taken seriously now after some early set backs that it’s hard for me to relax and be myself. Instead I’m uber-professional and bordering on uptight.

    • Well, you’ve also spent a good deal of your life training and pretending to be someone else. πŸ˜‰ It probably comes easier for you to “play” a mature adult when necessary than it does for others.

  8. Pingback: terrible work comic IN COLOR. « Ruby Bastille

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